One of the greatest collections of historical letters, including a plea urging tolerance by Gandhiji written 19 days before his assassination, were found tucked away in a filing cabinet in a laundry room in London.
The 572 letters — collected over 30 years by the late Austrian banker Albin Schram — records almost 500 years of history and includes letters by Winston Churchill to his mother when he was 16, Peter the Great, Alexander Pushkin, John Donne, Queen Elizabeth I, Sigmund Freud, Sir Issac Newton, Oscar Wilde and a rare love letter from Napoleon Bonaparte to Josephine where he blows three kisses to her the morning after a furious argument, among others.
Called the Albi Schram Collection of Autograph Letters, the extensive collection is expected to fetch £2 million when Christie’s auctions it on July 3. Christie’s spokesman Matthew Paton told HT: “We are offering the most comprehensive collection of hand-written manuscripts to be seen in the market in a generation.”
Catalogue details of the Mahatma’s letter say it is expected to fetch around £12,000, but not less than £9,000. In the letter, Gandhi discusses the Urdu script, and Hindu treatment of Muslims in newly independent India, where he expresses regret at having to discontinue the publication of his mouthpiece Harijan in the Urdu script, though he sees it as inevitable because of dwindling demand.
“The dwindle was to me a sign of resentment against its publication... My view remains unalterable, especially at this critical juncture in our history… It is wrong to ruffle Muslim or any other person’s feeling when there is no question of ethics,” Gandhi wrote.